There is no shortage of rain this year! In fact, some areas are severely flooded. This is generally known to be a problem in the springtime but because of the summer rainfall, mud has become a common occurrence in horse pastures all over the country. We will discuss a couple of ways to help in reducing mud around your farm and avoid losing precious pasture.
Have a designated paddock.
If you have lush pastures for your horses to graze on, do not turn them out on it when it is wet. Horses on wet pastures create mud, compact the soil, overgraze and trample the grass. This results in less vegetation and nutrients. Rather than keeping horses in the barn all day, create a designed paddock area. A paddock can be small and does not need to have grass. This is your “go-to” pasture for rainy or muddy days. Be sure to provide your horse with hay in the paddock to keep from causing boredom. Boredom leads to bad habits.
Renovated heavily compacted areas.
The goal is to have a safe, well-drained surface for horses. High traffic areas in pastures (near gates, water troughs, etc.) are hard to keep. Many of these areas become muddy or compacted and will no longer grow grass. For these areas, you might consider using a different type of footing.
Hog Fuel –
Hog fuel consists of large wood chips. It is the most economical replacement footing. The rule of thumb with hog fuel is to apply it twice as deep as the depth of the mud. Hog fuel will pack down and decompose over time, so you may have to add to it on a yearly basis.
Gravel or Sand –
Gravel is generally about 2 to 3 times more expensive than hog fuel but it tends to last longer. Crushed gravel should be applied 6-8 inches above the soil. Gravel will slowly migrate into the soil so you may need to add to it periodically. Coarse, washed sand is another option. However, make sure that horses are not fed on sand surfaces as it can cause sand colic.
Geotextile Cloth with gravel, sand or hog fuel –
The geotextile cloth or filter fabric is used on footing to separate layers, improve drainage, and prevent footing from migrating into the soil. The fabric is a woven, plastic material with small holes in it which allows water to pass through.
Creating good pastures/paddocks for your horses means one less headache for us as horse owners. Good luck, and stay dry!
For more information on pastures, visit: http://www.msuextension.org/musselshell/PDF%20FILES/EquneSmallAcreFarms.pdf